Cayenne pepper – it’s just that red, flaky stuff often served in pizza restaurants, right? Well… no. This bright, spicy topping has provided health benefits for thousands of years, but most people don’t realize how potent it is. Today, we’re going to look at the top Cayenne Pepper benefits and why they work the way they do.
Benefit #1: Digestive Aid
Cayenne pepper stimulates the production of saliva, which is a critical first step in the digestive process. Saliva is also a natural antibacterial substance, so increasing its production helps clean the mouth and eliminate bad breath.
As if those weren’t enough, cayenne pepper also stimulates the production of enzymes (a vital part of the digestive system’s overall functions), and it improves the ability of gastric juices that metabolize food and toxins.
If that sounds like a lot, that’s because it is. Few foods are this good at aiding the digestive system, and this alone would be enough to recommend consuming cayenne pepper on a regular basis. However, we’re just getting started with this list – there’s a lot more to come.
Benefit #2: Prevention Of Blood Clots
Medically, a blood clot is something that stops blood from flowing. There are times where this is a good thing – when you have an open wound, for example – but most of the time you want to avoid clots as much as possible.
Cayenne pepper supports the fibrinolytic system, which actively works to regulate blood clots within your body. Meanwhile, the capsaicin within the pepper is known to help clear lipids and dilate blood vessels to eliminate other clots.
The claim that cayenne pepper can stop a heart attack in 60 seconds is dubious at best – there’s no serious evidence backing up this claim. However, it is true that cayenne pepper’s effects on the circulatory system may help prevent a heart attack from happening at all. Since heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, anything that reduces its chance of happening to you is worthwhile.
(Important medical note: Its work as one of the natural blood thinners makes cayenne pepper helpful, but it could be a problem before surgery or if you’re taking other medications that affect the blood. Sprinkling a little on a slice of pizza doesn’t matter, but if you’re taking it in medicinal doses, be sure to talk to your doctor.)
Benefit #3: Support For Weight Loss
No, cayenne pepper isn’t a magical food that will help you lose 20 pounds in two weeks. However, it is known to reduce your appetite, increase your metabolism, and soothe inflammation within your body. All of these actively support weight loss efforts, making cayenne pepper a valuable part of a balanced plan to slim down.
Benefit #4: Pain Relief
One of the best cayenne pepper benefits is its use as an effective pain reliever, especially when consumed or applied to an injury area. Here’s how it works:
When your body is hurt, the nervous system sends a rapid message up your spinal cord and towards your brain. One of the chemicals involved in this process is known as Substance P (yes, that’s really the name), and inhibiting this chemical helps reduce the sensation of pain. Capsaicin – the main active chemical of cayenne pepper – is extremely effective at blocking Substance P.
There’s a recipe for a salve you can make at home right here – just remember to avoid touching your mucous membranes or eyes. If you want to use it for pain relief on your hands, consider wearing gloves over the salve.
Benefit #4b: Migraine Pain Relief
Aside from its normal pain relief, cayenne can be taken as a treatment for migraine headaches. This is basically a trick, but a handy one. You see, the brain can only pay attention to so many pain signals at the same time. By stimulating a different part of the body, the brain will pay less attention to the ache in the head and more attention to the heat around your mouth (or wherever else cayenne was used).
From there, the effects on Substance P kick in, dulling the impact of your migraine until the capsaicin from the cayenne has been processed by your body. If you have longer migraines, you may need to take cayenne several times before your headache goes away.
Benefit #5: Support For Detoxification
The body’s natural detoxification process is one of its most important functions – if you can’t get rid of the bad stuff, it won’t be long before your body starts to fail. Cayenne pepper benefits the detoxification system by reducing acidity in the blood and stimulating the overall circulatory system. It’s also known to regulate blood sugar and boost body temperature, both of which make it easier to detox.
Note that cayenne pepper works best when supporting your normal day-to-day detoxification system. If you need faster detoxification, consider using activated charcoal instead. If you need immediate detoxification after poisoning, contact the Poison Control Centers (1-800-222-1222) or visit poisonhelp.org.
Benefit #6: Anti-Irritant
You don’t want to get cayenne pepper up your nose or in your eyes, but it does help to relax your body. In particular, cayenne pepper can soothe upset stomachs, ease ulcers, and in some cases, even cure diarrhea.
Overall, cayenne helps to stimulate blood flow, improve alkali and mucus secretions, and inhibit acid secretions. All of these are good for reducing irritation within the body and ensuring its regular processes continue to function as intended.
Benefit #7: Treating Psoriasis
Psoriasis is a condition where excessive replication of skin cells creates thick patches with white scales on top. A study found that a topical cream of 0.025% capsaicin was effective in treating this condition, with patients widely reporting a decrease in their psoriasis’ itching, redness, scaling, and thickness after six weeks.
Cayenne has not been widely tested for psoriasis outside of these studies, and you should not try to use a more concentrated cream in the hopes of treating this condition faster. As with all medical treatments, trying to speed it up could backfire and harm you instead of helping you. It is always better to accept the cayenne pepper benefits as studied.
Benefit #8: Fighting Colds And The Flu
Cayenne pepper is rich in beta-carotene and antioxidants, both of which are vital to the proper functioning of your immune system. More notably, it actively helps to eliminate mucus, and getting rid of that will diminish the symptoms of colds and the flu.
As a side benefit, cayenne has plenty of Vitamin C. Most people aren’t lacking in this – quite a lot of foods give 50% or more of the recommended daily amount – but the extra vitamins for no effort are a nice side benefit.
Benefit #9: Other Vitamins
Aside from Vitamin C, cayenne pepper is rich in Vitamin A (which affects vision, the brain, and the skin) and Vitamin E (slows the aging process and balances hormones). Both are provided in useful amounts with as little as two teaspoons a day… and while you shouldn’t eat a spoonful of cayenne, it’s easy to mix into soups, sprinkle on sandwiches, and otherwise fit into your meals.
Benefit #10: Potential Anti-Cancer Properties
A study performed by the University of California found that the capsaicin in cayenne can help to regulate prostate cancer and limit new growths. While it’s not a cure, this chemical shows promise as part of a broader treatment plan.
Other studies have indicated that capsaicin may be effective in preventing tumors in the lungs and liver as well. It’s not conclusive yet, but the evidence of the benefits of cayenne pepper is promising, and further tests are ongoing.
Are There Any Negative Effects Of Taking Cayenne Pepper?
Cayenne pepper (and, particularly, capsicum) is generally safe when applied to the skin or taken orally in small amounts. It’s less safe in large doses or when taken for a long period. Some people have a stronger reaction to cayenne pepper the first few times they have it, with side effects including stomach irritation, flushing, runny nose, and sweating.
Cayenne pepper should not be taken in medicinal amounts if you are pregnant, may become pregnant, or are nursing. Cayenne should not be given (either topically or orally) to children less than two years old. Also, salves should not be used on broken skin regardless of age.